Tag Archives | Science Fiction

Mr. Sand Man, Bring Me a Dream

As Denis Villeneuve’s star-studded first installment of what Dune fans hope will be an adaptation of the entire saga or at least a decent chunk of it (though I wonder how contemporary American audiences will react to a story in which the heroes are explicitly Arabic-inflected mujahideen and jihadis fighting to protect their desert world and its one major hyper-lucrative natural resource against foreign imperial powers and corporate cartels) heads toward its premiere some time in 2020 – along with a spin-off tv show about the Bene Gesserit, unaccountably called Dune: The Sisterhood rather than Spice Girls – I thought a quick look back at previous attempts might be worthwhile.

1. In the mid-1970s, Alejandro Jodorowsky began planning what at one point was described as a 14-hour film. Funding fell through and no film was ever produced, but at least an excellent documentary has been made about the project. Jodorowsky’s enthusiasm is infectious, and the film would surely have been memorable (if only because batshit-crazy), but none of the imagery I’ve seen from the project really looks like Dune to me. (The most Dune-looking movie I’ve ever seen is actually Lawrence of Arabia)

2. In 1984, David Lynch’s adaptation lurched onto the screen, to widespread disappointment of fans (including this one). It’s hard to know how much of the blame to assign to Lynch, and how much to studio micromanaging. (There exists both a theatrical cut and an extended cut. Neither was approved by Lynch.) I reckon there’s plenty of guilt to go around. I mean, I’ll grant the film has some good bits – moments when the magic of the original story shines through. But it buries those monents under weird story choices (we hates the Weirding Module forever), horrible casting decisions (including the too-old and too-stolid Kyle MacLachlan as the lead), and one of the most painful opening narration sequences ever inflicted on a hapless audience.

Patrick Stewart fans, listen for his voice at 0:44-48, and watch for his face at 0:54-56, and more clearly at 1:05-07.

3. and 4. The Sci-Fi [as Syfy was then known] Channel’s 2000 miniseries Dune, and its 2003 follow-up Children of Dune (which in fact adapts, if rather hurriedly, both Dune Messiah and Children of Dune), are actually pretty good, and deserve to be better-known than they are. (Most news stories on the Villeneuve project give the impression that the Lynch film was the only predecessor.) But for budgetary reasons, they are shot (by directors John Harrison and Greg Yaitanes) entirely in the studio – against the background of some admittedly quite pretty desert paintings – rather than in any actual desert locations. Imagine Lawrence of Arabia shot that way and you’ll see the problem. (Villeneuve, by contrast, is filming in Jordan.)

SciFi SongFest, Songs 275-276

Two secret scientific experiments, one governmental and one private. The governmental one is reminiscent of Project X in Atlas Shrugged; the private one, of H. G. Wells’ “The Chronic Argonauts.”

275. Kate Bush, “Experiment IV” (1986):

(So what happened to Experiments I, II, and III? Or is it safest not to ask?)

276. Tom Waits, “What’s He Building In There?” (1999):

SciFi SongFest, Songs 273-274

Two songs about hungry monsters from outer space:

273. Sheb Wooley, “Purple People Eater” (1958):

274. Blondie, “Rapture” (1980):

Or, Debbie Harry sneaks rap onto MTV:

And don’t miss this mash-up of “Rapture” with the Doors’ 1971 “Riders on the Storm”:

Another version:

SciFi SongFest, Songs 271-272

Another two-parter:

271. Police, “Synchronicity I” (1983):

272. Police, “Synchronicity II” (1983):

Could anything look more 80s than this?

SciFi SongFest, Songs 269-270

Two songs riffing on a line from Walt Whitman by way of Ray Bradbury. Here’s a two-minute summary of the Twilight Zone episode that’s based on the Bradbury story (spoilers, obviously):

As you’ll see (or hear), the songs don’t really have anything to do with the story (although one of them does feature an android):

269. Irene Cara and the cast of Fame, “I Sing the Body Electric” (1980):

270. Rush, “Body Electric” (1984):

SciFi SongFest, Songs 267-268

Two songs about particle physics:

267. They Might Be Giants, “Particle Man” (1990):

268. Man or Astro-Man?, “Antimatter Man” (2013):

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